I recently purchased a nice little WWII era bungalow. The previous owner
left us with two safes in the basement. Access to the basement includes
the standard wooden stairs through the house and a "walk up" exit to the
backyard. One of the safes is fairly small and I should be able to get
it out with a hand-truck and some swearing. But the other is a monster.
It's roughly 4'x2'x2' and heavy as hell. I though about hacking it up with
a cutting torch, but I doubt the torch would make much head way. Trying to
get it up the outside steps sounds like an excercise in futility (and
Anyone have any clever ideas? Anyone want to come and take away two
antique safes? They're free! :^)
I would agree a cutting torch would not be a good idea. Safes sometimes include
a layer of copper to make cutting difficult. If it were solid steel it would
weigh 16 x 489 Lbs. The walls are likely no more than 6" thick so the interior
would be 3x1x1 and the maximum weight would then be (16-3) x 489 Lbs. But a
large part of the safe construction consists of fire protection (insulation) so
it would be probable that the weight of the safe is no more that 1/2 the weight
based on solid walls or about 1.5 tons max. It could be quite a bit less but I
would plan for 1 1/2 tons. If you know the combination and can open it then you
can refine the weight estimates by using the actual interior measurements.
You are going to have to build a reinforced ramp up the stairs since a standard
starway is not going to be strong enough to safely carry this much load.
I would advertise it as free to anyone for the taking but require removal to be
done at their expense by a competent millwright. Since this will be pricey you
may not get any takers.
Another option is to break an opening in the floor and dig a pit for it--RIP.
Are the outside cellar steps anywhere where a tow truck can back up to them?
(or even a 4x4 with a winch.) Lay down a couple heavy planks or steel
plates, run the winch cable down the stairs and loop it around the safe and
drag it up the stairs. (NOBODY in the stair well while this is going on-
steer it with pieces of 2x4.) Tow company may even do it for free in
exchange for the safe, if it is intact and has has the fancy paint and stuff
on the outside. If no access for a truck, is there a stout tree in line with
the outside stairs that you could pad with carpet, and use a come-along to
pull it up with? Rental places exist just for this sort of wierd project.
Otherwise, either make it part of the basement decor, or dig a hole in floor
and bury it.
antique safes? They're free! :^)
Call Geraldo Rivera. Tell him some 1920's gangster used to live there and
ya think they're full of cash and tommy guns! Make coffee for the film crew
and sit back and watch!
Oops - you said clever - not smart-ass.
The safe had to be put down there somehow in the first place. If the
previous owner is alive, and assuming they are the person who put the safe
there, ask them how they got it there. Or, call a safe company and ask how
they would put something like that in place - maybe you can reverse the
if you can get it open ,I'm guessing tha door could be removed with some
effort ,remove the door before trying to move .what is the rise and run of
the stairs leading out side ? and can a truck be backed up to or near this
outside door?. also stop by your rent all store they sell some rigging tools
. I think 3 or 4 guys with some ental tools should get it out.
Check with a heating contractor.
My daughter recently had a boiler replaced in her basement. It weighed over
500 pounds. When they delivered the new one, they moved it down the outside
steps with a battery powered hand truck. They brought the old one up with
it, as well. The hand truck was rated at over 1000 pounds.
The contractor may move them in exchange for the safes.
Hey I did this..it's not such a big chore.
Assuming the stairs are safe, renting an 'appliance dolly' for the rental
place and getting two guys to help and you would be surprised how easy it
If the stairs are suspect...obviously you need to fix them anyway...do it
On Wed, 02 Jul 2003 15:45:38 -0500, FireBrick wrote:
Thanks to everyone for the advice! I didn't expect quite this much
1) Both of the safes are in pretty rough shape. I don't know much about
antique safes (OK, nothing) but the monster is missing the handle and
combo wheel, and the small one has had the hinges hacked off. I doubt
there would be too much interest in them.
2) There's just no way to get a vehicle into the backyard.
3) The stairs leading out of basement to the backyard are concrete, so I
should be OK there.
4) The comealong idea sounds good, I'd been thinking along those lines.
There is a huge oak tree more-or-less inline with the stairs. Hmmm. Lay
some plywood over the steps, build a sled for the safe to ride on. Some
steel cable, a comealong. Maybe.
5) I'll keep the "bury it" ideas as a last resort :^). I sure as heck
didn't think of that one!
6) Isn't Geraldo still in Iraq? :^)
7) "battery powered hand truck"? I'll have to look into that!
Once again, thanks for the suggestions. If I survive the removal process,
I'll let you know what happened.
I got a good sized safe into my basement, almost single handedly.
The safe is awkward, but not unmanageable.
- I took 4 2x4's and stapled some ropes between two pairs to make two sets of
tracks sized to the width of the safe's wheels.
- Using these tracks, and leapfrogging them, I rolled the safe to the bulkhead
over the lawn.
- Then I used one set as a ramp into the basement.
Slid it down on it's side (not the wheels)
You can control the descent on the stair steps.
Using a ramp or a appliance dolly in your bulkhead should work.
Your first idea was probably the best. Rent a plasma cutter and chop the
safes into little pieces. You will find that the safe has a double wall
construction, a fairly thick outer shell, several inches of gypsum filler
for fire protection, and a thinner inner wall. A plasma cutter would
make quick work of the outer shell. You break up the gypsum and haul it
out in buckets, then just keep cutting until the pieces are small enough
You may have to take the door out in one hunk. The door is always the
toughest part of a safe. I once opened an abandoned safe for a friend by
just laying it on its back and cutting a hole in the bottom with a cold
chisel. The door was heavy steel with six 1" bolts. The bottom was 1/8"
steel and a lot of gypsum. It taught me that a good safe installation is
only accessible from the front, with the rest of it cast into reinforced
concrete. Once the safe was open, we reset the combination and welded
our way back out, pouring some gypsum cement to replace the fireproofing.
You may have the solution to some ancient burglaries there. The easiest
way to crack a safe is to take it home with you and open it at your
leisure. St. Louis was pretty wild and woolly at one time.
I agree. Hauling it up the steps into the back yard will just move the
problem a little. What are you going to do with it when it's sunk into
the back yard 6 inches deep ?
Be aware that not all safes are gypsum (or some other cement type
product) filled. Some of the smaller ones are solid steel.
Sounds that way, eh ? If there are any names on the safes, call a
local reporter and see what they can dig up on them. You could call
Geraldo, but he's probably safe-shy. Maybe Springer, I hear he needs
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